The Board

Wilbur van Beijnen
Elsemiek Bal 
Betty Straatman – de Witte
Jitske Smit – Lancel
Margreet Burgers – Vos


Betty Straatman, founder and treasurer

Through my work at the Adelbert College I came into contact with Kenya. In 2000, support was needed because students from the upper classes could register to join a school project in Kenya. Visiting such a project was on my wish list and there was a coaching place for me. Supervisors and the students paid for the trip all by themselves!

Until 2009 I was able to accompany eight trips, and together with my husband, Adriaan we also spent our summer holidays in Kenya. Since 2002 we have also sponsored girls to give them the opportunity to receive good education. I have now been to Kenya about 25 times in total. 

At the moment I am still treasurer of the Watoto Kenya foundation, but the younger generation is ready to take over. I also take care of the articles of the webshop that has recently been active, helped by a number of enthusiastic friends.

I remember most after all these years that together with family and friends I have been able to give 3 girls a good education . All three have a good job working in secondary schools. We now still support a primary school teacher who had been working without a diploma for years but who now gets better opportunities with his diploma.

What went well in the past 5 years and what could have gone better? Everything we have saved money for has been realized, sometimes with some delay.

What is your dream / end goal for the projects / 3 schools? That we can let go of the schools more and more, because there is more support from above and that everyone, in Kenya and in the Netherlands, gets through the corona period in a healthy way so that we can safely return to our great friends in Kenya.

Wilbur van Beijnen, chairman

Watoto Kenya is a real family foundation. When the Watoto Kenya foundation was founded, Betty asked me to become chairman. I said yes to that.  

From the start in 2015 I have been active for the foundation. I must say that there was still limited activity in the first years. The last 2 years I have invested much more time in the foundation. 

I am formally the chairman of the foundation. I try to organize the board meetings in a somewhat structured way. I also worked on the 5 year plan. Our foundation's vision for the coming years. I also worked intensively with Ellen on a new website and a real webshop! I also try to find new sponsors and keep in contact with existing sponsors.

I have been to Kenya many times since 2001. In the early years I often participated in the Verkaart Development Team trips. In that period my wife Anke was active for the foundation 'Wij Steunen Kenya'. Through this foundation she helped support the Mwereni Primary School. She also laid the foundation stone for 2 new classrooms. I was immediately impressed by all the happy children who appeared from every nook and cranny the moment we drove on the school grounds. Since then Kenya has a special place in my life. It became even more special when Anke and I adopted our first son in Kenya in 2011. We then lived in Kenya for a total of 10 months to go through the entire adoption procedure. A period where we really got to know the country well. During this period I was active for the water and construction team of Tenda Pamoja. We then hired Samuel. Samuel is still the employee for Tenda Pamoja who monitors all construction work.

After the adoption procedure of our second son in 2014, I have closed Kenya in my heart for good, and shortly thereafter Betty asked if I wanted to become chairman of the Watoto Kenya Foundation. I had only 1 answer to give....

I like to think in goals. In the past period, we have focused on two new classrooms for the Mahuruni Primary School. It gives me great satisfaction that after all our efforts we have actually raised the money so that we can now start construction.

For a foundation like us it is important that we have a permanent crowd of followers and donors who follow us, but more importantly, who also support us financially. I am proud that that list is getting longer and longer.

In recent years we have also been able to carry out a large number of projects at our schools in Kenya. For example, we have built a second dormitory at the Menzamwenye secondary school, a new shade at the Mahuruni and now 2 new classrooms. We are also working with a sponsor to replace rusty roofs at the Menzamwenye Primary School. In short, I am very happy that we have been able to do all these projects.

I can see that it is difficult to get people my age interested in Kenya. This of course has to do with the fact that work, private life and children already demand a lot of attention. Yet I see it as one of my big challenges to get more people my age interested in all the beautiful things we do.

My dream is all about continuity. Continuity when it comes to the foundation's income. So bind as many companies and individuals as possible to us to make the work we do possible. Continuity is also about the people who are active for our foundation in the Netherlands. My dream is that we will be able to attract more volunteers to help us with the work we do, and maybe I will also get my children to take over from me…

Elsemiek Bal, secretary

My name is Elsemiek Mengelberg-Bal and I have been the secretary of Watoto Kenya since its foundation in 2015. My love for Africa, and Kenya in particular, has started earlier ...

Excited by the stories we heard from Betty and Adriaan on birthdays, I wanted to see with my own eyes what it looks like south of Mombasa.

The good news that Anke and Wilbur would be in Kenya with their adoptive son made the trip even more special in 2011.

All of us, including Betty's sponsor girl Faith, went on safari. Back on the coast we visited 2 of the 3 schools that are supported by the foundation.

And I have seen and spoken to my sponsor girl (through another foundation). That girl is now a young woman who has just finished her studies.

When walking back with the headmaster of the Menzamwenye, after the opening of the new toilet building, the seeds were laid for the vegetable gardens. The schools have a lot of fertile land, very committed parents with an agricultural profession and an addition to one-sided meals is very welcome.

The attention was aroused.

Two years later I spent more than a week with Betty and Adriaan in Kenya and we visited many schools, also some others that are supported by sponsors from the umbrella foundation Tenda Pamoja. I also met Samson and Samuel, the two gentlemen in Kenya who supervise and monitor the schools and the various construction projects.

When Betty came in 2015 with the request to join the board of the new Watoto Kenya foundation, the answer was quickly given.

In 2019 Paul, my husband, also went along and was able to admire the work of and for the schools with his own eyes, as well as the dormitory that was partly sponsored by his school, the Alfrink College from Zoetermeer. With the help of the many students who have worked to get the necessary amount together.


Much has been achieved in recent years. I think most about: 

  • The beautiful surroundings / nature in the Lunga Lunga district, the place where the schools are located;
  • Spontaneous and enthusiastic Kenyans;
  • The full ferry from / to Mombasa;
  • Enthusiastic teachers, studious students and an involved county administration;
  • Visiting the minister of water for a 10 meter power supply, needed for a water pump;
  • The paper archives at the schools and at the ministry;
  • The special needs toilet building for disabled children, which was partly made possible by a contribution from my own colleagues! 
Elsemiek opening special need toiletgebouw
  • The roads to the schools that give you an African massage while you drive over it
  • The contrast between the villages around the schools and on the way with the hotel / resort where we stayed. Because of our safety, we are forced to stay overnight in a resort.
  • The support in the Netherlands that we received from family, friends and acquaintances.
  • The always very good cooperation, help and commitment within the board of the foundation.
  • And finally for this summarize, the boundless commitment of Betty and Adriaan, together with Samson and Samuel for the work for / in Kenya. Supported by Wilbur and Anke when they lived there for a while. With the new generation now active, I foresee a continuation of the activities.

My dream is that as a foundation we will no longer be needed. That the schools can exist independently and that all children can successfully complete at least primary school, and preferably also attend secondary school or vocational education.

Welcome to a school as soon as you get off the van

Holiday work - preparing visits

The beautiful nature and endless plains

Margreet Burgers – Vos, board member

Since the start of the Foundation by Betty Straatman, with whom I have been friends for a long time, I have been a board member. I help out where possible, with the various hobby, Christmas and summer markets and other projects that generate money for our foundation such as, for example, the “Waterloop” and in the past balancing with a construction company. See the picture.

I also sponsor a student together with others so that the study costs are paid.

Unfortunately I have never been to Kenya myself, but the stories and photos of the other board members have given me a good idea of ​​the circumstances in which the children attend education there. Especially the pictures of a lot of children sitting on the floor make you think.

Our Foundation ensures that as many children as possible receive the best possible education. That is why we have built schools, dormitories and a shade and we provide books, desks and sanitation. Much has already been achieved. We would like to expand, but we also need to maintain what has already been built. In short: a lot of money is still needed. We hope to give children a good education, so they will eventually become self-reliant in the future.

Jitske Smit, board member

I became active for the Watoto Kenya foundation through Betty Straatman. We are old colleagues from each other from the time of the Adelbert College in Wassenaar. I have been a board member since the founding in 2015. 

For the foundation, I work out ideas with the other members, I work on the newsletter, I help with the sales during the Christmas promotion / annual fair and I assist with other projects.  

I have been to Kenya once. In 2009 with 30 students from Wassenaar and surroundings. With four adults it was quite an undertaking but also a unique experience. Not only because of the country and culture, but also that you get to know your students and colleagues in a different way. 

During my trip to Kenya, the natural beauty and the very nice people stayed with me the most. The enthusiasm of children who have so little and still manage to make something beautiful out of it. Our children were impressed by this and realized even more that they were lucky to grow up in the Netherlands.  

Much has been achieved in the past 5 years, such as new classrooms, but also books and calculators, the level that children achieve (better school results), clean drinking water, wheelchairs for the disabled, library books (in English), schooldesks to sit at. Normal things for all of us, but not in Kenya. It is not easy to find donations and sponsors, especially during this Corona period..  

It is my dream that the work of Watoto also appeals to you so that we can call on you in these uncertain times. When it is difficult for us, it is important now for this vulnerable group of young people that we continue to support them. So that they can do something for their environment and their country in the future. 

Ellen Zillig – Straatman, active volunteer

Through my mother Betty Straatman I came into contact with volunteer work in Kenya. 

n 2004 we went on holiday to Kenya for the first time with the whole family to visit the projects together with the Verkaart Development Team.

I then also participated with a group of young people in "Students for Students". We made preparations in the Netherlands and spent a day in Kenya with a group of high school girls. The main goal was to exchange experiences and provide information on all kinds of subjects (hygiene, clean drinking water, etc.). We also visited our sponsor girls there; we sponsored a student with the family so that she could receive education.  

For the Watoto Kenya foundation I mainly do a lot of work behind the scenes. Mostly things that happen on the computer. Maintaining the website, drawing up the newsletter, setting up / maintaining an Excel to keep a clear financial overview. I jump in where I can. With Wilbur I have been busy updating the website. We also hope to make the website bilingual in the short term.  

I've been to Kenya in 2004, 2012 and 2018, so 3 times in total. In 2004, my first visit, I went with my parents, sister & brother-in-law and my (now) husband. In 2012 I visited my sister and brother-in-law who lived there at the time and in 2018 the trip was again with my parents, sister, brother-in-law and husband and our children. Our children were now all old enough to understand what we do in Kenya, how the conditions of the children there are so much different than in the Netherlands. Each visit is a combination of safari, relaxing in the hotel and visiting several schools (often with relief supplies) and seeing what has happened, whether everything is well maintained and where work is still needed.  

Whenever we go there, we use half of the luggage we are allowed to take with us for aid items. This can be clothes, school supplies or toys. When we hand out those things, the children are so grateful. They are also very happy with a candy. It puts everything into perspective and you realize all too well how well we are doing in the Netherlands. What is also striking is that the daily routine there is so different. "Pole Pole" is a widely used statement. Meetings are a little less structured than you would like. The knowledge in the schools (which are located in small villages, far from the big places) is sometimes so different from what we are used to. For example, if they show in a fairly new toilet building that the doors are already going bad, we immediately think "yes, then you should also paint them". You have to explicitly state some of the things that are self-evident to us. However, they are very good at getting things done with limited resources. With a jerry can, a frame, a string and a blade, make a tap that you can operate with your foot to wash your hands, for example.  

During our trip in 2018 I was able to open the new dormitory at the Menzamwenye secondary school together with Wilbur. Much of the dorm is sponsored by actions from my old high school, so it was nice that we got to open the school. 

My dream is that the schools can support themselves at some point. Food through the vegetable gardens, clean drinking water through sufficient facilities and money for maintenance, for example by growing trees, which are sold as building materials. In the construction projects that we do, we always ensure that the schools involve the parents for, for example, preparing the site, so that they also feel responsible for the maintenance. We also hope that through better education, the students will end up better and can continue to support their village to keep moving forward. It will still take time, but it is not impossible. In any case, it starts with good education and a better chance for young people and we have already made quite a few steps in this direction.

Anke van Beijnen-Straatman, active volunteer

I joined the Watoto Kenya Foundation because my mother Betty Straatman was already active in it. And because of my great personal connection with Kenya, I enjoyed doing something for children in Kenya.

Laying of the foundation stone for new classrooms at Mwereni Primary School in 2003

In 2001 I first came into contact with the Watoto Kenya Foundation (only then under the old name). My parents then took me on a trip from the foundation. That's where the love for the country developed. After that I also founded my own Foundation together with colleagues. But eventually passed that foundation on to other people. Since 2015 I am solely active for the Watoto Kenya Foundation.

 For the foundation, I am mainly involved with contacts with schools in the Netherlands to collaborate with them for our foundation by means of an action that raises money. I also prepare the actions and help to keep the webshop up to date.

I have been to Kenya regularly. In the period from 2001 to 2011 for a holiday to visit the projects. In addition, in 2011/2012 I lived there for 10 months for the adoption of our oldest son. And in 2014 we lived there for another 8 months for the adoption of our second son. During those periods we were also able to do a lot for the foundation because we lived there. Finally, we enjoyed a summer holiday in Kenya in 2018.

Recently the beautiful school buildings with solid gutters that we have been able to realize in Kenya have stayed with me the most. Together with a good water tank to collect the rainwater. In this way we do our part for better health of the children. We also made a village pump possible at one of the schools. As a result, the drinking water has become of even better quality.

I see that it is difficult to find enough steady sponsors who want to commit to our foundation. So we have to do our very best to get the projects done and collect the money together. Therefore, if you want to help us, please contact us!

I am proud of the new website we have created, including a webshop. We also have intensive contact with the schools in Kenya. And with perseverance, we were able to achieve a lot of beautiful things in the end.

I dream for the future that we have realized sufficient facilities in our schools in the form of classrooms, toilets, water tanks and school desks. As a result, they need us less and less and feel responsible for the maintenance of the buildings and water tanks. So that we as a foundation have to carry out less and less control. This is a development that is not simply realized.

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